Through no fault of our own we rubbed people the wrong way within the first days we moved into our new apartment in CDMX.
We were very blessed to have a temporary apartment available to us for 2 months while we looked for our long-term apartment. It wasn’t our taste by any means but we were thankful none-the-less. One of the first things we noticed when we moved into that temporary apartment was that there were few rules in the complex. Apartments in CDMX are not like apartments in the states. Apartments are individually owned and there is no management company that rents out units, maintains the exterior, or cares for the complex. People are basically reliant on each other for maintenance. God forbid that an irresponsible or rude person become your neighbor because there would be little that you could do to address issues, other than having an awkward face-to-face conversation.
This was definitely the case with our temporary apartment. “Loud! Why do people go to bed so late in Mexico? Doesn’t anyone have to get up to go to work? There are other people WITH CHILDREN to think about!!!” These were some of my first thoughts as we began life in CDMX. I felt as if we lived in a complex of lawlessness. “Thank God this is only temporary” is what I kept telling myself.
A month and a half later we found the PERFECT place! Met all of our needs and then some! We felt so blessed. Then came the knocking on our door. The security guard, who was rather rude and pretentious, told us (in Spanish) that there were rules here that we had to adhere to and we had been breaking them. This was the LAST thing we expected. No maintenance on your apartment before 9am or after 6pm during the week, 10-1:30 on Saturday, and absolutely no work on Sundays. Only take your inorganic trash out MWF and organic trash on TTHS. No adults on the swings in the communal playground. WOW! I felt angry with him and angry with my landlord. Next day we get a call from our landlord telling us the exact same things and that we had to pay to have the cable company come back out to rewire our cable because we violated yet another rule. We proceeded to tell her that if she expected us to follow the rules, she needed to provide the rules to us. However, my anger did not subside.
Several days of processing my emotions led to a breakthrough. I was embarrassed! That is why I was angry. I had upset people unknowingly and now I’ve made a bad name for myself. I am a missionary! I am supposed to make my neighbors happy, after all these are the very people to whom I came to minister. Great start, James.
The next couple of weeks, much didn’t change. I actually noticed a distance one of my neighbors and the security guard kept from me. Animosity began to grow inside me. I didn’t like our security guard. In fact, I was now going to do everything I could to go out of my way not to see him and hope he wouldn’t approach me with some other complaint. Every other day I would see his smug face in his office and I would say to myself, “Man, I sure don’t like this guy. God obviously doesn’t want me to share the gospel with him.” Until…
5 days ago there was knocking on my neighbor’s door. My neighbor, who had been keeping her distance, is an elderly lady. 70-75, somewhere in there. I quietly crept up to the peephole in my front door to spy. It was her maid. Knock, knock, knock. “Hola, Lolita?” Nothing. This went on for 10 minutes. I started to get worried. “Is she dead? I hope not.” The security guard (grumble, grumble) came to her door and started knocking also. “I guess I am not the only one who thinks she might be dead.” The maintenance man came to her door. Knock, knock, knock. Nothing again. “Okay, she really might be dead.” I peeked out into her patio, which is visible from my back patio. “Her back door is open!” I quickly opened my front door and in my broken Spanish told the security guard, maintenance man, and maid to come in to try to call out to Lolita. I grabbed my bar stool and handed it to the security guard who used it to help hoist the maintenance man into Lolita’s patio. Just as the maintenance man landed on her patio Lolita’s front door opened and Lolita was sitting on her rocking chair. I called out to everyone and they ran over. She said that she had been sick the past couple of days and that she couldn’t hear them knocking. In my mind I was hoping that she wouldn’t be upset at me that I let them into her backyard, I still don’t know the culture here and people’s boundaries or privacy.
They checked on her and everything was okay. I was leaving with the kids and I was exiting the complex when the maintenance man yelled out to me. He told me that Lolita wanted to say something to me. “Here it comes, she’s going to rip me a new one.” Almost crying she told me how thankful she was that I was there to help. The next day she knocked on our door and gave us a basket of fruit and we exchanged phone numbers in case she needed anything.
A couple of days later as I was coming home from school, I entered the garage and sure enough the security guard was on duty. “Please don’t come talk to me.” I felt him looking at me as I hung my bike on it’s rack. Sure enough he was approaching me. “GREAT! What did I do now?! Just leave me alone!” (In Spanish)
Security Guard: Good Evening! How are you?
James: (VERY confused) Good, thank you.
SG: Where in the United States are you from?
J: (Still VERY confused) Los Angeles
SG: Nice! I lived in North Carolina for 10 years.
J: (My attitude changed very quickly) Oh really? What city?
J: Oh! My dad visits Charolette often for work.
SG: Are you parents going to come visit you in CDMX soon?
J: Probably not until November or December for Christmas. What is your name?
J: My name is James. Well, I have to go because I just got home from class. I am learning Spanish, I’m only in level one though.
SG: You will learn little by little.
J: Good night!
SG: Good night!
That was the last thing I expected. I realized that once people found out that I cared for my neighbors they opened up to me. God used that situation to open a door with my neighbor, security guard, and maintenance man. Now they all initiate a greeting whenever they see me. God also used that situation to reveal my own sinful thoughts and attitudes through that situation. I am thankful the way God works. I wish I wasn’t so stubborn but thankful that God could wrestle with my heart.